“A man once gave a great banquet and invited many…
But they all alike began to make excuses.”
This past Tuesday I was at supper with the students before their Uncover John evening and I learned of a new term that they all seemed to know about – FoMO. Do you what this means? It is an acronym for “Fear of missing out”.
“Fear of missing out or FoMO is “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent”. This social anxiety is characterized by “a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing”. …People who experience FoMO are more inclined to use social media sites (such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat) because they feel the need to always “stay connected.” [Wikipedia article]
Can you see what this might have to do with today’s readings? Well let’s come back to that later.
This morning we are still near the beginning of Trinity season – the last half of the Church year. It is a season about growing in Christ (the liturgical colour is green), about being sanctified or made holy by the Spirit, as we are led into the kingdom of heaven, led back to the Father.
And we are being introduced to the season with some basic things needed for that growth – two Sundays ago Jesus told us we must be born again of water and the Spirit to see and to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Last Sunday we were reminded it is all about love – and we start with loving our neighbour who we can see, rather than some abstract idea of loving God.
So what about our readings this morning?
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.
The call of God to Abraham is to go into the unknown, trusting that God has a plan for him. It is appropriate we begin this season, it is the same call to each one of us here this morning, to go into unchartered territory, to a way of seeing and a way of being that we do not understand at present and that we have not yet known. As Abraham was called to go to the Promised Land, so are each one of us being called to see and to enter the Kingdom of God.
Abraham was called to leave the society he grew up in and the family he grew up in, so that he could go to a better place. Why leave what you know? Because we already know the place we are, our way of seeing and being, and we know in hearts that that’s not enough, we want more.
The call to leave family is the call to grow up, to mature, to leave behind unhealthy reliance on others, to mature and become your own person. And this is the case when it comes to our relation to God – it is not enough to rely on the faith of others around us, it needs to be nurtured one to One.
The call to leave the land that we are familiar with is a call to go to a place, to new territory, to some better future. And that land Jesus shows us is not some particular place on earth but the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Call of Abraham is the call to adventure, and it is a call that is to each one of us, at every point in our lives. [for these last four paragraphs see Jordan Peterson’s lecture on The Call of Abraham]
Abraham was 75 years old when he received the call – most of us here are younger than that, but the call to Abraham was continuous even after the initial calling – to a deeper and deeper following of God – we can think of how he could hardly imagine having children, and once having them, to be brought to the point of understanding God’s deep love for him and all humanity when he was asked, but then not required, to offer up his only son. Jesus speaks of the depths to which Abraham was brought – “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” [John 8:56]
We are called at every stage of our lives, to ask, that it might be given to us, to seek, that we might find, and to knock, that it might be opened to us. [Matt 7:7] After baptism the journey begins with prayer, then with a following of Jesus, and then, after a time of sanctification, with a knocking on heaven’s door and it will be opened to us.
John says today [1 John 3:13-24]:
Whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
New territory, a new Land, continually opens up. It is a place of life, it is a place of love. It is largely unknown to us at present, but it becomes more and more known.
Let’s think for a moment of our own lives, and of the stepping out into the unknown in faith – new friendships, new love, new job, perhaps moves to new places to live – have you ever regretted acting, even if you were mistaken at the time about the way to act, the stepping out itself, has it not been a learning and a growing? Has it not been a step on that journey to the Kingdom of God?
This morning we are being called to get on with the journey towards the Kingdom of God: so long as we are motivated by a right love, we are on the way. But we are also being reminded that on that journey we should all have a certain “Fear of Missing Out”.
In our Gospel this morning [St Luke 14:15-24], Jesus tells a parable about a man who gave a great banquet. Jesus is at a supper and one of the guests at that meal said to him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the Kingdom of God!” The parable Jesus tells is a direct response to that statement. So in the parable, the man who gave the banquet is God, and the banquet is held in the Kingdom of God.
In the parable, the man invites many people to the banquet, and those invited make excuses for not coming – typical excuses of being busy with the business of life. So the man invites others – the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame – there is still room, so others are found in the highways and hedges, in other words, beyond the bounds of the immediate city.
Commentators have seen Jesus as describing prophetically how the Gospel will be preached to all nations and those to whom it first came may be less ready to accept it than those outside of Israel.
But the message is also for each one of us, a kind of ongoing warning to each one of us. We have been privileged to receive the gift of baptism, and of direct ongoing invitations from the Spirit in our hearts, to an ever deeper fellowship with God.
Are we listening to that calling in our hearts to continue the journey of faith, to ask, to seek and to knock? To step out into the unknown, to go beyond where we are now, if we have become comfortable, to continue to grow in Christ?
Jesus issues a stark warning if we get caught up on the way with our earthly affairs so that we attend to them in the place of that calling to the great banquet.
Here’s what happens:
I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet
If we don’t come to the feast, we will not taste of it! What could be a more rational or more simple statement of reality than that? When we become complacent about the basics of the Christian faith: reading the Bible, or taking time for prayer, fasting, or regularly receiving the Holy Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, when we become complacent about loving our neighbour – not some vague neighbour out there, but the person in front of us, our spouse, our family, our friends, our enemies – when we become content with worldly pursuits, or even legitimate pursuits but without looking up – may God wake us up, may he give us a deep “Fear of Missing Out”!
What is it that FoMO is for a person who is eagerly trying to stay connected through various social media? There is a right instinct there – because at the heart of each one of us is a desire not to be alone, but for fellowship and real community beyond ourselves – both with other people and, ultimately, with God – even if we don’t know it. Thinking that we can satisfy that desire through social media is a mistake, but the desire is right. What we’re seeking and the place where we will find peace at the last, is to eat bread in the Kingdom of heaven – finally to be connected with God and with people, authentic relationships above and on earth beyond the superficial, truly connected – knowing life and love.
We’ve come here this morning I hope out of both love and a certain fear of missing out – may God grant that these two motivations will stay with us all our lives to keep us on the journey heavenward.
A man once gave a great banquet and invited many.
Soon the feast will be set before us as we present our Lord’s death until he comes again. May we heed the invitation today and always!
[Trinity 2 Collect: O LORD, who never failest to help and govern them whom thou dost bring up in thy stedfast fear and love: Keep us, we beseech thee, under the protection of thy good providence, and make us to have a perpetual fear and love of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.]